Bilbao via Santurzi, some very pleasant surprises

We left Leiquitio in steady rain with a 6 to 8 hour sail of about 30 nautical miles in mind. Little did we know that it would turn into a 10 hour sail in terrible conditions. In the Bay of Biscay, the wind does some funny tricks as it hits the mountainous coastlines and is deflected back at the sea. Peter will be able to explain this better, but you have to read the weather report with a very different interpretation when you’re sailing here. The tide is affected by the wind, and the swell is a constant. Peter labored for a couple of hours trying to pass by a particular headland, and we just could not make any headway. We’ll add more navigating details here later, but suffice it to say, we arrived both shaken and stirred, at the mouth of the estuary leading to Bilbao.We took refuge in a large port at Getxo for the night. Unable to contact anyone there by email, phone or vhf, we tied up in an empty berth. I think the captain was pretty pleased to sit down to some real comfort food, as I’d been hoarding a small reblochon cheese and we had a delicious tartiflette (potatoes sauteed with onions and bacon and topped with a ripe mountain cheese before heading into the oven!). Soul food! We reached our original destination the next day: the Transit pontoon in the large fishing port of Santurzi, a suburb about 16km from Bilbao. Somewhere, Peter had read that, if you book ahead, you can get 2 free nights there, so we did. It’s very hard to find the Transit pontoon, as it’s a single dock very close in to shore, with a small shower block close by. We had no idea what to expect, but this turned out to be a great base for visiting Bilbao. The whole area is quite industrial as you approach by sea, so it seemed hard to imagine the pleasant city on land. Santurzi is a bustling community where you can find absolutely everything you could need within walking distance, including restaurants and commerces of all sorts. Better still, the inter-urban train, the Renfe, stops right across from the pontoon. A quick walk through a busy park and you’re on the clean, quiet and efficient train into downtown Bilbao. It also happens to be an above ground line, so you get a great view going in. Bilbao is stunning. The architecture reflects not only the city’s historical past as the wealthiest in “Green Spain” and its status as the Basque capital, it also boasts more contemporary elements that make it a shining example of urban design and landscaping. We suspect that quite a lot of European funds went into this, and were well used.More to come, but Bilbao was definitely the urban highlight of our visit to the region!

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